Wow, it’s a tough week here for choosing a Pick, though for a much different reason than last time around. Looking at this week’s new manga from Midtown Comics, we’ve got the new omnibus of Cardcaptor Sakura, a second volume of Alice the 101st, Double Cast, 13th Boy (one of my favorite manhwa series), the adorable third volume of previous Pick Chi’s Sweet Home, new Nightschool, new 20th Century Boys… it’s a great week for manga.
That’s a lot of plot to spell out in a single review, though it really only scratches the surface of this whirlwind shonen fantasy. Impressively, though the story races along at an exceptionally fast pace, it is very easy to follow and its characters immediately take shape, evoking both sympathy and great interest from the beginning. Both Oz, whose carefree attitude hides significant intelligence and compassion, and Alice, whose aggressive, fearsome persona seems crafted to protect the psyche of a very damaged young girl, are immediately compelling …
Mochozuki’s art is central to the atmosphere of this manga, with its detailed character designs and settings. Much inspiration is taken from John Tennial’s vision of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, with the addition of Mochizuki’s own style which excels particularly in the story’s creepiest moments, such as Oz’s adventure in The Abyss … The story’s action sequences are unusually coherent and easy to follow, with a very dramatic use of contrast and paneling, matching its surreal setting beautifully.
As with any story as elaborately set up as this one, the real question at the end of a strong first volume is whether or not the author can effectively follow through with what’s been put into play. The series has offered more questions than answers at this point, relying mainly on the strength of its characters to hold the reader’s attention through the din. That said, there is enough promise in this fun, mysterious fantasy to ease all doubts for the moment and simply anticipate. Fast-paced, enigmatic, and attractive to the eye, Pandora Hearts is easy to recommend.